Chili pepper leaf, a native American plant, is used extensively in medicines and food. Unlike its fruits, the leaves impart a mild heat and pungency and are hence, perfect substitutes for people who can't stand spice.
Chili pepper leaves contain phytochemcials and phenolic acids. These have potent disease preventing mechanisms in addition to high antioxidant activity. The phenolic acid detoxifies enzymes, stimulates immune system, and reduces blood pressure. The antioxidant activity they exhibit reduces cancer risk, cataracts, cardiovascular diseases, and macular degeneration. Capsaicin, the photochemical present in chili pepper leaves, can induce death of cancer cells in mice and even get pancreatic cells to start producing insulin again in cases on type-1 diabetes. Clinical trials in humans prove that chili pepper leaves can lower LDL levels. They are also capable of alleviating chronic pain, control microbial contamination of food, and protect stomach lining from H.pylori infection.
Culinary Uses of Chili Pepper Leaf
Chili pepper leaf can be used in a variety of dishes. The leaves taste bitter but impart only a mild heat in comparison to the fruits. They are often cooked as greens in Filipino and Japanese cuisine. Here they are known as dahon ng sili. Chili pepper leaves are added to tinola, the chicken soup and in Korea they are used in kimchi. The leaves are used for preservation too in Japan by cooking them in tsukudani style. The freshly picked leaves can be added to stir fries ad soups for a mild heat and plenty of benefits. Care should be taken to add the leaves only during the last couple of minutes of cooking.